As PM Modi goes to Darbhanga, a look at history of a land which forced the Shankaracharya to learn Kamasutra

Mithilanchal evokes nostalgia, myths and revulsion at the same time. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a rally at Darbhanga, the region’s undeclared capital, to canvass support for his party’s candidates, the occasion is apt for a trip down memory lane.

The intellectual prowess of Mithilanchal is as legendary as is its history of women empowerment. The reading of both fills one with nostalgia. The story goes that after defeating intellectual giant Mandan Mishra, the Shankaracharya was challenged by the former’s wife Bharti.

“You may have defeated my husband but not me, his better half,” she challenged him and started a discussion on the Kamasutra. The Shankarachraya conceded his inability to discuss the topic and went on a leave for six months to learn about it. When he returned, Bharti said, “I played a joke as I was defeated the moment you won my husband.” But the region gave him a lesson in life.

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A file picture of a dargah in Darbhanga. Image source:

People’s craving for education and their abiding faith in knowledge and wisdom are all too evident all over the region. Mithilachal is full of myths about its own model of Hinduism. Brahmins in the region are non-vegeterians and do not follow the social codes of Brahmins of Uttar Pradesh. Culturally, the society is closer to Bengal and Odisha than Bhojpuri-speaking areas of Bihar. The region’s famous poet Vidyapati is revered as much in Bengal and Odissa as in Mithilanchal.

In this cultural and mythological backdrop, Mithilanchal and adjoining Seemanchal that borders West Bengal, are the most difficult terrains to be conquered by either the NDA or the Grand alliance. The rich backdrop fails to conceal the underlying social tension which may resurface and create a communal chasm on the eve of the polls. Certain developments in the recent past in the region evoke revulsion.

Darbhanga was in news for housing a module of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Yaseen Bhatkal, the kingpin of this module, had a safe haven in the area till he was finally nailed by sleuths of the NIA about two years ago. The manner in which the JD(U) government prevaricated in the entire operation raised the hackles of the then UPA government. Perhaps the state government was keen to wash its hands of from the arrest to protect its pro-minority image.

Bhatkal was neither a gangster-turned-politician like Shahabuddin nor an ordinary run of the mill criminal. He was a declared terrorist whose role was suspected in serial explosions in Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad. His sleeper cell was active and getting patronage from local leaders. He deliberately chose targets outside his home state to avoid the heat on himself. For a long time, the JD(U) government in general and Nitish Kumar in particular chose to look the other way as sleeper cells of the SIMI or ISI struck roots in the region.

But what appeared to have irked locals is the plight of a brave woman IPS officer who headed the Darbhanga police and busted a racket of kidnappers linked to a powerful local politician who later rose to be a Union minister. The woman officer traced the calls made by the operatives of the racket in Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra to this leader and proceeded to bring him to book in 2003. Rabri Devi was the chief minister then. An angry Lalu Yadav persuaded his chief minister wife to transfer the IPS officer and ensured that the case was hushed up. The subsequent government also ignored the case as it would have exposed many skeletons in the cupboard of local leaders.

The transformation of Darbhanga in particular, and Mithilanchal in general, from a seat of learning, knowledge and wisom to a place that promotes criminality and anti-national forces is quite instructive. Politics has invariably contributed a great deal to pushing the region to backwaters and exploited its growing social discontent to polarize society. As the people of the region prepare themselves to cast their votes, this narrative of Darbhanga may clearly obscure its past grandeur.

Updated Date: Nov 02, 2015 15:20 PM

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